New Delhi: The Bharat Yatra Trust (BYT) founded by former prime minister Chandra Shekhar is at the centre of a controversy with its chief Mohan Dharia alleging that his signature has been forged in the record of a recent meeting, which approved the leasing of the trust properties, while Chandra Shekhar`s son and MP Neeraj Shekhar and trust secretary Sudhindra Bhadoria denying the charges.
Neeraj Shekhar said categorically that there was no attempt to encash on the appreciating real estate value of the hundreds of acres of trust land in many states. "There was no plan to lease out its properties," Neeraj Shekhar said.
Reacting to a report that BYT trustees were at loggerhead over the alleged move by some of them to lease out trust land to private interests, he said: "There is no question of giving out these lands to private interests in any way."
Bhadoria, a long-time associate of Chandra Shekhar and secretary of BYT said: "The trust is not into real estate deals. We will approve only those action which can justify the cause and memory of Chandra Sekharji."
The controversy began with a media report that Dharia had written to Bhadoria that his signatures had been forged in the minutes of a meeting held in Pune Dec 18 providing for the lease of the trust land to private parties.
The trust owns hundreds of acres of land at prime locations in 13 centres, including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
The Pune meeting minutes said that the "trustees of the meeting have discussed the matter relating to maintenance of the trust property in order to achieve the objectives of the trust. The trustees present appreciate the steps taken by the earlier trustees and gave their consent for the same".
The Pune meeting was attended by four trustees -- Dharia, Bhadoria, Janata Dal-United president Sharad Yadav and socialist activist Bhai Vaidya.
Bhadoria, displaying the minutes of the meet said: "All are welcome to see for themselves the minutes, which carries the original signature of Dharia in blue ink."
According to him, the "charges are levelled by HN Sharma, who was a functionary in Chandra Shekhar`s office, with ulterior motices. Since he he was not associated with the Yatra, he does not deserve our reply."
Neeraj Shekhar, however, clarified that there was no bar on using the land for public welfare. Anything that is "public oriented can come up on these trust lands but it has got be in the name of (my father)".
He said the land could only be used to establish educational or technical institutions or hospitals including medical colleges.
The MP said the trust was set up by his father after he undertook the Bharat Yatra from Kanyakumari to Rajghat in New Delhi covering 4,260 km in 1983. After the 170-day march, Chandra Shekhar -- who eventually became prime minister in 1990-91 -- set up the centre to train political workers rooted in socialist ideology.
He said the problem was primarily in respect of properties in Pune and Gurgaon in Haryana (Bhondsi village) because of the prime location of these lands.